Once again, I've been thinking back to my in-house publishing days, this time in relation to the advertising we did on behalf of our books and journals. Selling anything, editorial skills or otherwise, in a limited space can be quite a challenge.
Advertising in specialist directories is something most of us do in addition to having a website. Even if you struggle to promote yourself succinctly, you can use the limited space wisely by following three basic steps.
These steps can be applied to any promotional profile you’re building but they’re particularly appropriate when dealing with searchable databases. Most national professional editorial societies have searchable membership databases; the SfEP, EAC, EFA, the regional chapters of IPEd, BELS, and SENSE are just a few examples. Then there are freelancing and business directories like Find a Proofreader, FreeIndex, Yell and People Per Hour.
Whether you've paid for your listing or it's free, it makes sense to maximize your chances of being found and selected. Otherwise, what's the point in having it?
Back in my publishing days, our marketing director would always encourage us to approach our promotion plans with joined-up thinking: first comes the hook, then the pitch, and finally the call to action. All three are connected, and by thinking about them as joined it becomes easier to see what needs to be included and why. In relation to how we manage our directory listings, the hook, pitch and call to action could work as follows:
Step 1. The hook: This is what enables clients to find your listing in the first instance. You may be one of hundreds, or even thousands, of colleagues who are listed in the directory. The types of clients you want to attract need to be able to find you. Using the most appropriate key words is the first thing you need to crack. These could refer to the service(s) you provide and the subject areas or genres you specialize in: “proofreader”, “crime”, “erotica”, “sociology”, “law”, “politics”, “speculative fiction”, “race/ethnicity”, "theses" and “science fiction” are some of mine. Yours will be specific to you.
Niche key words can be effective because they can narrow down client searches; broad key words are important because they make sure you’re in the mix for the searcher who isn't too specific. I would advise a mixture of the two, as long as each key word reflects your skill set.
And in discussion about this blog post on Facebook, one of my colleagues, editor Adrienne Montgomerie, reminded me how important it is to use key words that make sense to your client. Says Adrienne:
... In educational publishing, what I do is called developmental editing. But in the corporate world, it is called knowledge transfer, educational design, and even technical writing. The clients I want can't find me if I'm not speaking their language.
Step 2. The pitch: If the hook leads the client to your listing, then the pitch keeps them on your page. Since you have limited space it’s worth focusing on what your biggest selling points are. In addition to one or two sentences summarizing your business (e.g. “I specialize in proofreading academic and professional books in the social sciences and humanities.”), you could add a short list outlining the things that you think will most impress the client:
Your list might look different; the point is to make sure that you highlight the things about yourself that will make you look fabulous. And do shout your specialisms from the rooftop. There's too much competition to go down the "I do everything" route. It's not a compelling message. Nor is it believable.
Step 3. The call to action: Having led the client to your page and impressed them with your pitch, you should now make it as easy as possible for them to take the next step. If you think your directory listing is so impressive that you can nail the job there and then, add in a call to action under your pitch inviting the client to contact you. If you want to drive them to your website because you think the information there will close the deal, add in a few words inviting them to do just that (e.g. “Visit my website for more testimonials and a full portfolio of works.”).
Even if your website link and contact details are listed elsewhere on your page, writing a few words that encourages a particular step is still an example of best practice; it invites the client to engage with you. In the world of sales and marketing, this is nuts-and-bolts stuff, so why not apply it in the world of editorial freelancing, too?
Thinking about presentation
Another good piece of advice that professional marketeers like to reinforce is that of testing. If your directory entries aren't driving in the quantity or type of client you'd hoped for, try playing around with different hooks, pitches and calls to action. Different sets of key words might be more effective; perhaps your call to action could be more prominent; or you could reconsider your pitch to make it more salesy, more academic, more publisher-focused, or more self-publisher-centric.
Thinking about this has made me realise that I have some tweaking of my own to do in order to perfect the message I communicate in my preferred advertising channels.
If you have any tips about effective advertising, please do leave a comment. It's one of the most difficult nuts to crack, so the more knowledge the better.
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